Let’s diagnose the Republicans’ health care hypocrisy

    Nurses in the operating room at Hahnemann Hospital, in Philadelphia. (Elana Gordon/WHYY File Photo)

    Nurses in the operating room at Hahnemann Hospital, in Philadelphia. (Elana Gordon/WHYY File Photo)

    We don’t know whether the Republican crusade to kill affordable health care for millions of Americans will ultimately live or die, but one repugnant fact is indisputable: The GOP’s hypocrisy is too thick to cut with a chainsaw.

    When health care reform was on the agenda back in the summer of ’09, House Republicans whined that it was being “rammed through” and “rushed.” That was the party’s mantra. Paul Ryan, the alleged big brain of the conservative caucus, complained that “Congress is moving fast to rush through a health care overhaul.” He contended, “I don’t think we should pass bills that we don’t know what they cost.”

    Dave Camp, ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means committee, said the “rush” was outrageous: “We cannot afford to guess when it comes to health care. These are people’s lives we’re talking about.”

    Eight years later, that’s still the Republican mantra; as Ways and Means chair Kevin Brady claimed in March, Obamacare was “written in the dark of night and rushed through Congress.” Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney actually said that Obamacare passed the House in 2009 without a single public hearing.

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    Oh man. It’s always important to remind ourselves that the GOP’s penchant for self-delusion was fully evident long before Donald Trump came along.

    In truth (assuming that “truth” still has value), it took 15 months to pass Obamacare. And it wasn’t “written in the dark.” The House — via its Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce committee; and its Ways and Means committee — held at least 15 public hearings. The Senate — via its Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee; and its Finance committee — held 13 public hearings. They’re all listed here, on pages 61-7. That doesn’t include the hundreds of roundtables that were conducted, at the White House and elsewhere, with doctors, insurance, and health policy experts. President Obama conducted a summit with congressional leaders that was televised.

    And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office “scored” the bill along the way, estimating how much Obamacare would likely cost and how many people it would likely cover. Its first report was released five months before lawmakers voted.

    Contrast that factual history with the farce that’s currently unfolding. The latest iteration of Trumpcare — which narrowly passed in the House today, hotly opposed by every health group from the American Medical Association to the March of Dimes — was fast-tracked by House Republicans over several weeks without a single public hearing.

    Nor has the Congressional Budget Office had a chance to score it for cost and coverage. A previous version of Trumpcare, which failed in March, was eviscerated by the CBO — 14 million Americans would’ve lost their insurance in 2018; 24 million by 2026 —but now the GOP thinks it’s fine to forge ahead without a CBO assessment. Mulvaney said of the CBO not long ago that “estimating the impact of a bill of this size probably isn’t the best use of their time.”

    Gee. Whatever happened to the Republicans’ ’09 insistence that “we cannot afford to guess when it comes to health care”?

    They’re fine with guessing, now that they have the power to wreak havoc. Houe Republicans have rammed through a mystery version of Trumpcare — rushing the process, doing all the stuff they falsely accused the Democrats of doing in ’09 — without having a clue about its social or economic impact. They’re fine with guessing how many people could be helped or hurt (thrown off Medicaid, dumped by insurance firms in states that loosen protections for those with pre-existing health woes). They’re fine with guessing whether Trumpcare could narrow or widen the budget deficit.

    But here’s the bottom line: The Republicans are fine with being hypocrites. They view that as a small price to pay, because their main goal was to score a win for the poseur in the White House.

    A win is a win, even if it violates every previous promise. Trump vowed to give “terrific” health insurance to everyone, to protect Medicaid from budget cuts, yadda yadda. But he’ll take a win with a Paul Ryan plan that covers fewer people, slashes Medicaid, and exposes people with pre-existing conditions to big premium hikes. Add those items to the hypocrisy tally.

    Trump hadn’t notched a single legislative victory despite the Republicans’ Capitol Hill dominance, and even though House passage of Trumpcare guarantees nothing — the Senate will rewrite the bill and kick it back to the House, triggering more intramural Republican fights — he just wanted something to boast about. Hence the House’s rush to ram through something that will sate him, at least until he needs another fix.

    Alas, this is what happens when a minority of voters elect a president with a preexisting mental condition.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook

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